Picnic, barbecues and Plate and Pitchfork dinners head the list
by: , Plate & Pitchfork begins its 10th year of farm tour dinners this month. The dinners feature fresh local foods prepared by area chefs, which are paired with local wines and other beverages. Barb Randall suggests a Plate & Pitchfork dinner or other outdoor eating event would make a great Father's Day gift for dear old dad.

I'm not a dad, but to me, the perfect Father's Day celebration must involve either a picnic or barbecue, and homemade ice cream and/or watermelon must be on the menu. The menu should also feature ribs, kebobs or some other manly meat.

Sounds great doesn't it? But if you are thinking of something a bit more upscale but still loaded with that homey, eating-in-the-fresh-air ambiance, I suggest you purchase dear ol' dad a Plate and Pitchfork dinner to be enjoyed this summer. Trust me, he will love it!

The Plate and Pitchfork dinner series is the ultimate in outdoor eating. These dinners are held at local farms where the best locally produced foods are prepared by the best chefs and paired with the best local wines. They are totally a win, win, win, win!

Erika Polmar founded the series on the simple idea of people sharing a meal and conversation based on the amazing bounty grown by Oregon's small family farmers. Her mission for Plate and Pitchfork is to reconnect eaters with the people who grow and prepare their food. Each dinner begins with a tour led by the host farmer. You'll meet ranchers, fishermen, winemakers and bakers whose products grace the table. And, along the way, Polmar hopes to make diners aware of the multiple economic and social benefits of eating locally.

Plate and Pitchfork begins its 10th season of the popular farm dinners this month and continues through the end of August.

Some of the farms included in this year's series are:

• Champoeg Farm, established in 1856, owned and operated by Mark and Catherine Anderson, who come from a long line of farmers. The farm produces pasture-raised eggs and poultry and animals raised in lush green pastures, which they sell wholesale and to the public through a buyer's club.

• Food Works Farms. This is a youth employment and empowerment program that engages 14- to 21-year-old people in all aspects of planning, growing, selling and donating more than 12,000 pounds of organic produce each year from its two-acre organic farm on Sauvie Island. Food Works crew members learn business, leadership, organic agriculture and other important work and life skills by working as a team to market their food at farmers' markets and local grocery stores and donating a significant portion of the food they grow back to their community. Crew members receive school credit for their work and are supported to transition into other employment opportunities and to succeed in their academic goals.

• Sauvie Island Organics. For more than a decade they have grown vegetables in the rich soils of the island and sell their high-quality produce to Portland restaurants and to CSA members.

• Smith Berry Barn. What began as a u-pick raspberry farm in 1978 is now a 30-acre family farm that produces 10 varieties of cane berries, a five-acre apple orchard featuring 20 varieties of heritage and modern apples and a variety of specialty produce, including gourmet greens, fresh herbs, gourmet squash and pumpkins and heirloom tomatoes and peppers. The love owners Rich and Joelle Hinder have for gardening has brought a new dimension to the farm.

Some of the chefs showcasing their culinary talents during the series include Marco Shaw from Piedmont, Adam Berger from Tabla/Meatballs and 24, Caprial and John Pence from Caprial+John, Vito Dilullo from Ciao Vito, Broc Willis from SouthPark, Chris Diminno from Clyde Common, Alex Yoder from Olympic Provisions, Dolan Lane from clarklewis, Cathy Whims from Nostrana/Oven and Shaker, Anthony Cafeiro from Tabla Mediterranean Bistro, William Preisch from Bent Brick, Kirsten Jensen from the Sugar Cube, Vitaly Paley from Paley's Place, Benjamin Bettinger (formerly of Beaker and Flask), Dustin Clark from Wildwood, Tony Meyers from Serratto, Pascal Sauton from Milwaukie Kitchen and Wine and Bernard Malherbe from Crooked House Bistro.

Wines, beer and spirits will be provided by Andrew Rich Wines, Antica Terra, Apolloni Vineyards, Bull Run Distillery, Cristom, Domaine Drouhin Oregon and Maison Joseph Drouhin, GUILD Winemakers, Grochau Cellas, Imbue Cellars, Ken Wright Cellars, Love and Squalor, Lumos Wine Co., Patton Valley Vineyards, Van Duzer Vineyards, Westrey Wines and Widmer Brothers Brewing.

If you want to get dad way out of town for several dinners, then be sure to sign up for Plate and Pitchfork's inaugural Road and Raft Trip to Hells Canyon Recreation Area and Carman Ranch. Polmar has packed as much fun as she could imagine into this four-day/five-night adventure. From Sept. 6 through 11, participants will travel to Joseph, Ore., to explore the rolling prairies and timbered rangeland of Carman Ranch and 6 Ranch. You'll tour the ranches and learn the art and science behind raising beef exclusively on pasture. Portland chefs Benjamin Bettinger of Imperial and Jason Barwikowski of The Woodsman Tavern will prepare a traditional branding-style barbecue for the group's enjoyment. Then Ben and Jason will tag along, keeping you fed on their gourmet fare while you spend the next three days rafting the class III and IV whitewater of Hells Canyon, the deepest river gorge in North America.

The dinners vary in cost from $100 to $150 per person and fill up fast. To review the calendar, visit

Plate and Pitchfork has a long-standing tradition of re-investing in the community, and during its 10th season a portion of all sales will benefit Farmers Ending Hunger, Oregon Tilth's Organic Education Center, Foodworks Farm and the Sauvie Island Center.

If you think your dad would prefer staying closer to home for his culinary adventure, check out In Good Taste's cooking classes for the summer. Its instructors have scheduled on Father's Day a BBQ Basics class and on June 26 a Summer Grilling class. IGT offers a wide variety of classes focused on Oregon's bounty, including my hands on Oregon Berry Jellies and Jams class on July 7. Dad likes jam, doesn't he? Check out the class calendar at

Whether you decide to honor the dads in your life with a picnic, a cooking class or a Plate and Pitchfork dinner, remember what he treasures most: being a dad … and soap on a rope!

Bon Appetit! Eat something wonderful!

The whimsical presentation of this icebox cake will add just the right touch to any Father's Day celebration, and it is a perfect way to use those delicious Hood strawberries that are in season now. Start the cake at least a day before you plan to serve it, as it needs to freeze hard before slicing.

Pop-Art Strawberry Icebox Cake

Makes 6 to 8 servings

This is an adaptation on a recipe by Lauren Chattman, author of "Icebox Desserts," which uses raspberries, which give a more intense red color. When raspberries ripen, try the recipe again using them, but for now use those delicious Hood strawberries to make this festive icebox cake.

Strategically placed wafer cookies look like polka dots when this cake is unmolded. Then, when you slice it, you see the stripes. Make sure the cake is fully frozen before slicing for the cleanest look.

27 Nabisco Famous chocolate wafer cookies

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and slightly cooled

1 envelop unflavored gelatin

3 tablespoons cold water

2 baskets fresh or 12 ounces frozen strawberries or raspberries

¾ cup sugar

2 cups heavy cream, chilled

2 tablespoons framboise (raspberry liqueur)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Line a 9 ½ x 4 x 3-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, making sure the wrap is tucked into all the corners and there is at least 1 inch overhanging the top of the pan on all side. Working with one cookie at a time, spread the more rounded side of nine of the wafer cookies with a thin layer of melted chocolate and place three of them, chocolate side down, on the bottom of the pan. Place another three cookies against each long side of the pan, chocolate-coated sides facing the pan. Place the pan in the freezer.

Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a small bowl and let soften for two minutes.

Combine the berries and sugar in a medium-size heavy saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring a few times, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is warm to the touch. Stir in the gelatin mixture. Let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

Combine the heavy cream, framboise and vanilla in a large bowl and, using an electric mixer, whip until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in the cooled raspberry mixture, taking care not to deflate the cream.

Remove the pan from the freezer. Pour all but one-fourth of the mousse into the pan. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Insert the remaining 18 wafers into the mousse, arranging them vertically in three rows of six so they are lined up with the chocolate wafers on the sides of the pan. Spread the remaining mousse over the wafers and smooth with the spatula. The pan should be full to the top. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until completely set, overnight and up to one week.

To unmold, gently tug the plastic wrap that lines the pan to loosen the cake. Place a serving platter over the pan and turn over. Gently tap to release. Carefully peel the plastic from the cake. Cut into slices and serve immediately.

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-636-1281, ext. 101, or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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